Strong indications emerged last week that the federal government has once again soft-pedalled on its earlier directive that gas flaring should stop by December 31, 2010.
It is already considering a new date of December 31, 2011 as the new date when flaring of all gas associated materials in relation to exploration activities in the oil and gas sector.
This much was disclosed last week by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Gas, Hon. Igo Aguma, who also added that the new date was at the instance of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Government had previously set December 31, 2008 as the deadline, a development which had prompted the Department of Petroleum Resources which then threatened to clampdown on any oil company which is still engaged in the practice at the expiration of the deadline.
Last week was the third time that government is changing its mind on gas flar deadline.
Confirming the latest development, the committee chairman disclosed tha his taem is already working on the possibility of the new date so that NNPC can address issues that are militating against achievement of zero gas flare deadline by the oil companies.
Shipping Position Weekly recalls that at recent meeting with members of the Senate committee, the multinational oil companies had told the lawmakers that achieving zero gas flare by 2008 was unattainable because of certain facts.
The companies including: Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN), Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited (EPNL) had all pleaded for more time.But Hon. Aguma acknowledged last week that stopping gas flaring would require that certain facilities are put in place and that these facilities would require at least two years to put in place.
He said : “We are all aware that there is currently a gas utilisation programme ongoing to support the power industry. We also know the capacity of the industry to receive the gas that is being flared. So, projects need to go on before we can have a zero flare-out date,” he said.
Further justifying the need to shift ground on the deadline, the law maker pointed out that NNPC is major stakeholder in the sector and added that “if NNPC that is trusted with the management of JV operations on behalf of the Federal Government has agreed that adequate time is needed to raise fund required to complete major infrastructure and gas utilisation projects, without pre-empting the final decision of the House of Representatives on the gas re-injection bill which we have just concluded at the public hearing as the chairman of the Gas Committee, there is already a consensus about 2011 as the possible date feasible for ending gas flaring in Nigeria,” he said.